Down the memory lane, Migne’s tenure as Harambee Stars boss


Down the memory lane, Migne's tenure as Harambee Stars boss
Former Harambee Stars head coach Sébastien Migné reacts during a past friendly match against Swaziland at Kenyatta stadium in Machakos. Swaziland won 1-0. Photo/Stafford Ondego/Sportpicha.

In Summary

  • In May 2018, Football Kenya Federation (FKF) hired Frenchman Sebastien Migne on a three-year contract to head Harambee Stars technical bench, months after the exit of his predecessor Paul Put.
  • On Sunday August 11, 2019, Migne's contract with Kenya was terminated, with FKF stating it was a move reached on mutual agreement between the two parties.
  • From squad selection controversy, hard to like defensive approach to two 3-0 defeats to Algeria and Senegal respectively and Migne was more of a villain.

In May 2018, Football Kenya Federation (FKF) hired Frenchman Sebastien Migne on a three-year contract to head Harambee Stars technical bench, months after the exit of his predecessor Paul Put.

On Sunday August 11, 2019, Migne’s contract with Kenya was terminated, with FKF stating it was a move reached on mutual agreement between the two parties.

In his one year and two months tenure as the Harambee Stars boss, Migne was both clothed as a hero, and as villain as well by the ever demanding Kenyan football fans.

He found a downcast and a pessimistic Kenya, whose 2019 African Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifying journey had started on the wrong footing, with a 2-1 defeat to Sierra Leone away to Free Town.

It was out of favour local tactician Stanley Okumbi who was at the helm as Kenya sunk to a lowly ranked Sierra Leone, albeit on interim basis after Put’s unexpected exit shortly after delivering Kenya the 2017 Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup.

Then, like in a Messiahnic tone, Migne sparked hope among Kenyans that the journey to the Egypt AFCON was still possible, against all odds in a group that had four-time champions Ghana, Ethiopia and the Sierra Leone.

“I like dreaming positively. Anything is possible in football. We can still qualify, although it’s a shame we lost to Sierra Leone. If we qualify for the next (Africa Cup of Nations) AFCON, that’s fine, but to play in this competition in 2021 is a must for me and Kenya,” said Migne, not fearing his first competitive match was against Ghana in the qualifiers.

Perceptions

He would first see Kenya play Swaziland, now Eswatini at the Kenyatta Stadium in Machakos, relying mostly on his local players.

Migne then took Stars to the Heroes International Cup in India, where he formed perceptions that would largely influence his selections in the latter days.

Some Gor Mahia players refused to honour his call-ups due to what was reported as busy club schedule, and Migne would mark them badly in his memory.

Such was George ‘Blackberry’ Odhiambo and Harun Shakava who never found favor with him anymore. Then, one Musa Mohammed who had returned to the country following a short uninspiring sojourn to Albania with FK Tirana, was unattached and somehow won Migne’s trust in India.

He would remain one of his favourites till the end, despite the competitiveness in the Kenyan back line. He had shown loyalty and commitment at a time he was observing the Holy Ramadan fasting, as opposed to players who ‘rebelled’ against him while starting his Stars journey.

In the forming of perceptions too, goalkeeper Ian Otieno, then plying his trade in Zambia, was called for national duty by Migne only to show “disrespect despite impressing on the training field probably beyond his peers,” according to Migne. He would never get his nod again, even after switching to South African side Golden Arrows, albeit the coach sorry admission that not even his first choice custodian Patrick Matasi met his standards.

Captain Victor Wanyama almost embroiled in the negative hello effect when Migne was preparing Kenya for the famous 1-0 victory against Ghana at the Moi International Sports Centre Kasarani in September 2018.

In a post-match press conference, Migne said he was not happy for the disregard shown for the national team, with English side Tottenham Hotspur refusing to let Wanyama free for the qualifier.

“This has to be addressed in the future. I need to observe him (Wanyama) in training and see how bad his injury is. I cannot rely on club report only…,” fumed Migne, who said he was angry despite the unexpected win.

Zambia curse

In the previous teams by Put, Okumbi and Adel Amrouche, Anthony Akumu, Jesse Were and David ‘Calabar’ Owino had been first team members.

The trio, now featuring for Zambia’s Zesco United were in a league that Migne showed no respect for, and laboured hard to make his team.

Were and Akumu would spark a heated debate after their axing ahead of the recent AFCON in Egypt, despite their exemplary role in the Zesco’s CAF Champions League journey three seasons in a row.

Zambian based Harambee Stars players Anthony Akumu (L), Jesse Were (C) and David Owino arrive at Aeroporto Internacional Osvaldo Viera in Bissau, Guinea Bissau on March 22, 2016. Kenya plays host Guinea Bissau in their 2017 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier match. Photo/Stafford Ondego/www.sportpicha.com
Zambian based Harambee Stars players Anthony Akumu (L), Jesse Were (C) and David Owino arrive at Aeroporto Internacional Osvaldo Viera in Bissau, Guinea Bissau on March 22, 2016. Kenya plays host Guinea Bissau in their 2017 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier match. Photo/Stafford Ondego/Sportpicha

Their fellow Kenyans Duncan Otieno and John Mark Makwata were worsely affected the Zambia curse, never getting a single nod despite their impressive shows locally before joining Nkana Red Devils and Buildacon respectively in the Zambian league. Only Musa, from the Zambian league, won his trust.

AFCON glory

After a 15-year jinx, Migne finally took Stars to AFCON. Although Sierra Leone was banned for government interference with the federation affairs, Migne basked in the AFCON glory as he had sworn to floor the Central African side at home, had they been reinstated in the qualification journey.

Beating Ghana had breathed the much need self believe in the coach, the team and the fans, and nothing seemed could realistically stop the journey.

But, the glory only came with more demands. Kenyans wanted an assuring result away to Ghana. They were beaten 1-0. He had drawn Ethiopia away and humbled the neighbours at home 3-0, so more was expected.

He had been given much, at least more than any other coach in Kenya’s history, and as if all Kenyans were reading from Luke 16:10 to contextualise the stubborn Frenchman’s situation in Kenya, much they expected, from the unprecedented federation and government support.

At his hiring, Nick Mwendwa, the FKF boss had said: “We wanted a person who can appreciate when the lights go off, when the car doesn’t arrive on time, or when we suddenly have to work on a water logged pitch. He will take us through the 2019 Africa Nations Cup qualifiers, the 2020 Olympics and importantly 2021 Africa Nations Cup.

“He will work with his own backroom staff which include assistant coach Nicholas Bourriquet, goalkeeping coach Guillame Coffy and Ludovic Breul who is an Osteopath,” Mwendwa said then, to underscore the support he was ready to accord while warning delays were inevitable.

The 2019 deal came through in advance, the 2020 Olympics dream was shuttered and the 2021 was a question of wait and see, though Migne had shown doubts.

Kenya National team coach Sebastian Migne addresses the media when he named squads for the upcoming Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) as well as the Africa Nations Championships Qualifiers at the FKF House, Goal project on May 13, 2019. Photo/Kelly Ayodi/Sportpicha/Citizen

However, the 2019 AFCON glory overshadowed Migne, but as soon as the qualification celebration was over the competition demands overshadowed him even more.

From squad selection controversy, hard to like defensive approach to two 3-0 defeats to Algeria and Senegal respectively, Migne was more of a villain.

He failed to return with the team to Kenya after that group stage elimination, signalling all was not well. Confidence had reduced, though Mwendwa insisted Migne was the man to take Stars to ‘Canaan’.

“I’m not in the best position to speak about this, but everyone knew our strength as a team was in defense. Throughout the qualifiers we conceded only a goal, but our defense unit was disjointed by the injuries of Brian Mandela and Joash Onyango. The coach has to rely on their understudies. With the two players in the mix, maybe the team would have survived early elimination…” Mwendwa told in an interview after AFCON, adding Migne was there to stay.

Things fall apart

Two weeks ago, when Kenya failed to go past Tanzania in the African Nations Championship (CHAN) qualifier, things started to seriously fall apart for Migne.

The shame of falling to young brothers Tanzania at home was unbearable, and Migne had nowhere to hide.

In his characteristic utter stubbornness, he dared FKF to sack him if the football body was ready to pay him the contract obligations – which would have hit up to 48 million.

“I’m not under pressure at all. I took Kenya to AFCON after 15 years. I won a match with something at stake (against Tanzania, 3-2). The two sides that beat us, Senegal and Algeria went all the way. I knew when I was coming here the expectation was different, I was not signing for Senegal or Ghana. We have to be realistic…” the coach boldly told.

Francis Kahata, receives instructions from head coach Sebastian Migne during their International friendly match at Kasarani stadium in Nairobi on September 11, 2018. Kenya won 1-0. Photo/Stafford Ondego/sportpicha/Citizen

In the hullabaloo of the AFCON squad selection, was Allan Wanga, the experienced Kakamega Homeboyz striker who would announce his international duty retirement soon after the tournament, which he was surprisingly axed from.

Migne may not have needed him for AFCON, but for African Nations Championship (CHAN), he was his pillar that never was. Then went AWOL John Avire, the other reliable man who would have saved his face from the shame of CHAN that came with annoying blunt attacking department.

There was no the creative mastwr Francis Kahata either, nor the secrwt weapon Cliff Nyakeya as the two had joined foreign leagues, exposing Migne whose entire period at Stars had relied on the foreign legion.

Just like Tanzania confessed the sacking of their AFCON coach Emmanuel Amuneke was majorly for losing to Kenya in Cairo, it is no brainer Migne’s last stroke that broke the camel’s back was the 4-1 loss to the same neighbours in post-match penalties.

Migne’s marks

The birth of arguably dependable striker Avire, Joseph Stanley Okumu and budding David Owino (Mathare United) at the international level will always be tagged on the memory of Migne.

The 2019 AFCON tale will keep the former Congo DR coach in Kenya’s football history. The mentoring of coach Francis Kimanzi in high level competitions management, albeit from a distance, is another mark that even Mwendwa appreciates.

The strictness when standing firm on what he believed in, whether popular or unpopular will be remembered too, whenever Sebastien Migne is mentioned in Kenya.

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Story By Jacob Icia
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